In its current alpha form the Survivor Games team is still building the barebones of the DayZ experience, they are still adding systems to build upon. Although they are moving at an incredible pace, with new content releasing every week at this point, it doesn’t hurt to look at what is missing from the DayZ experience.
The first two are things that have been billed for update very, very soon, but will require iteration thereafter.
For me personally the biggest issue is the lack of players. The current count of 40 players just doesn’t populate the map. This is something they have been addressing on the experimental branch, trying to find the balance between server performance and player count within the current version.
Currently it seems 60-70 players is the sweet spot given optimization. From experiencing these different player counts in the experimental build and based on speculation I would say around the 70 mark is optimal.
70 players are enough to always keep you on your toes, scared that there could be a player over every horizon. That is what DayZ is all about and is not present with 40 players, it is easy to forget there are other players when up north.
When you get 70 players on a server the coastal towns can become quite manic, but definitely within playable margins relative to the madness of 100 player servers.
You don’t want to have so many players that it becomes a death match, but you also don’t want so few that interaction is such a rarity that people are sacred of it and never learn to trust.
The next biggest problem for the immediate future is lack of loot spawning. Again this is something that Rocket has touted for release very soon.
This is arguably the most game-breaking part at the moment. One of the biggest attractions of the game is the scavenging/gearing up process. People enjoy going from rags to riches. But in the current build it is essential to a good gameplay experience that you server hop to a freshly restarted server.
When the loot spawning has been added, relatively soon, the biggest issue will be balancing it. Rocket has made it clear that he intends for the game to be difficult. Household guns such as the hunting rifles will be rare but the military grade weaponry will be even rarer.
Rocket has also stated that backpacks will become much harder to find than their current abundance. As undoubtedly will be the case with weapons, players will be expected to create improvised equipment, such as the backpack currently in the game and no doubt yet to be announced improvised weapons.
The increasing difficulty of gearing up will certainly be a much welcome change to the game. At the moment it only takes an hour or two to get a solid primary, sidearm and some ammo. But it is important that they have stepping stones otherwise players will get bored and stop playing before they ever find a weapon.
This ties quite neatly into my final point of the necessity of end-game. This is probably a more long term and continual goal but players need something to play for, a dream to chase. In DayZ Mod the holy grail was a car then eventually a helicopter.
The addition of vehicles to the game is something producer Hicks spoke about during his livestream yesterday. He is in agreement that they are a fundamental part of the DayZ experience but like Rocket he cannot commit to a time frame for their addition to the game.
What we do know about the future implementation of vehicles is that they will likely start with a bike and a helicopter will exist in the future but will be hard to maintain. Hopefully they have a better vehicle system than is in ARMA, because those vehicles break so sporadically that I dread to think how much harder maintaining a vehicle could be.
That being said the problem with DayZ mod was that once you got a helicopter you had essentially completed the game and had nothing more to play for. Other types of content to keep players engaged could be player settlements, perhaps the ultimate end goal of any squad, something they build together and maintain.
Hicks responded to a question during his livestream stating that they are actively working on player constructions, road barricades and the likes.
Since they haven’t discussed their game design ideas for base building and construction it seems they are still in the design phase.
These are the three cores of the game that I feel are necessary to have the full DayZ experience, anything in addition is just a bonus.